The World's Worst Discipler

So, I cried…a lot. I don’t cry that often. There was a time when I went years without crying and was sadly proud of this fact.

I sat in bed crying while my husband slept. It’s not his fault. He just happens to sleep like a coma patient. I should add too that he had nothing to do with my crying.

It was all me…well, all me and my enemy. I have failed lately. Failed in relationships. Failed in discipleship.  Failed with sin. Failed to run to God. It seems failure is all around me and I’m to blame.

I just realized it too late. If this was a test, I had scored a big fat “F.”

(Why is it that we can’t see the forest through the trees? Why can’t we kick our own asses before it’s too late?) I needed a swift kick to the behind and when it came it was from someone else…someone that I had failed.

A disciple of mine. After 2 years of a discipleship relationship, she informed me that I was basically sucking. I never called. I didn’t see her. I didn’t text. Oh, and the biggie…the one that cut me and bled my heart–that all I ever did was tell her what she was doing wrong. I offered no grace.

Drumroll please….Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls–Introducing Nicole Cottrell, the WORLD”S WORST DISCIPLER.

(applause) Thank you, thank you…

I felt (and still feel) like scum. I feel like a failure. A big fat failure, to go with my big fat “F.”

I know the truth though and I have to remind myself because no one else will. These aren’t excuses, but me admitting the “why” behind my failure: I didn’t call ’cause I’m not much of a phone person. I didn’t see her for weeks on account of our constantly conflicting schedules. I didn’t text because I find it impersonal. these are all areas where I failed…

..But I also know that I did not just point out her failures or shake a big fat judgmental finger at her.

There is the truth. I know I encouraged her. I  know I equipped her. I know I told her to not condemn herself when she slipped up and fell into sin.

I keep hearing “You failed. You suck.” run through my head. But then I have to keep reminding myself of the truth. I wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But I am also not guilty of that which she has accused me.

Why is it so hard for the truth to seep into our brains at times? Why can’t we digest it easily? It’s truth after all. It is good for us. Nutritious, but admittedly not always delicious.

This time, I guess that my truth portion was hard to swallow because despite the fact that I knew I wasn’t as horrible and sucky as I had been portrayed, I also had to own up to the areas where I had failed….and there were plenty.

In the final months of our discipleship relationship, I hadn’t been consistent. I had broken my word. I had been MIA. Of course, I could give excuses: I’m pregnant. I’m very pregnant. I have two little kids. I’ve been traveling. I’m juggling a home, motherhood, a marriage, and a blog. Yadda, yadda. yadda.

Excuses don’t count and they offer no satisfaction to either party. Instead, I had to just accept it. I had failed. I asked for the Lord’s forgiveness for these things. I apologized to my former disciple and then I cried. I sat crying in bed because well, I’m sad. Sad that I’m not perfect. Sad that at times when it seems I am making ground, I take 50 gigantic steps back. Sad that all of this makes me feel so alone.

And for right now, I’m okay with being sad. I know the truth will eventually soak in and begin to heal. I know that God is here even though I can’t feel Him. I know I’m not the world’s worst discipler, even if it feels like it. I know. I trust. I’m just waiting for it to feel that way too…

When was a time when the truth was not spoken about you and you had to battle that lie–mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? What in your life has seemed, at least initially, like a huge failure? What did you learn?

update: My former disciple contacted me and clarified, thus apologizing, for saying that I only pointed out her failings. That was kindness from the Lord towards me and I recognize it as such.

8 thoughts on “The World's Worst Discipler”

  1. Love the honesty here. Failure? Well…for a while I pretty much just felt like my entire 20’s was one. But then I started realizing that if you are willing to risk, and be vulnerable, and to dream, that failure has to exist. The biggest failure would be if we never had any. Then how would we ever grow?

    But holy cow does it feel like a big ball of Suck repeatedly clubbing you in the face though….

  2. I love the honesty of this entry… I have also been the one to not call for weeks, or seem like I’m pointing out someone’s faults when I really do try to show mercy, just like it was shown to me.

  3. I’m sorry I slept through it…but I’m guessing it wasn’t (just) because I sleep like a “coma patient.” I’m guessing it’s because, sometimes, we just need to cry out to Him and remember that His grace is sufficient. Much, much, much more than sufficient.

  4. I know whereof you speak! But what I’m learning in my journey is that I’ve been very unkind to myself for much of my adult life. And I have consciously made an effort to stop doing it.

    I think Jesus wants me to see myself the way HE does. HE thinks I’m adorable…HE thinks going to the cross was necessary just so He could be with me forever…HE sees me completed and whole. That’s the difference..I only see the incomplete parts that don’t always fit nicely together.

    I’ll own my sin…I’ll name them to the Father so I can receive forgiveness…and then I’ll move on. It’s time to be nicer to me…no more self-bashing allowed. Praying you don’t beat yourself up either. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  5. Nicole,

    Even with Jim as my spiritual father, there is a certain amount of me pursuing him that must happen. I mean, if I esteem him and have given him the authority to speak directly into my life, yet do my best to avoid calling him or any other such contact, then how serious am I really in being Timothy to his Paul?

    I say all this (a fave expression of someone we both know) because yes, you should have pursued her more. Of course. How easy is it for me to say to Jim, “Well, you never called me, or wrote me, and it was always on me to pursue you!” (Jim and I talk about once a week, sometimes more. I was being loose with that last remark.) But then again….was she being diligent in pursuing you?

    While it is true the template and example is of God the Father seeking us at the edge of His Kingdom ceaselessly looking down the road for our approach,and Jesus the Shepherd leaving the 99 to find the 1, and so forth.

    But there is a certain amount of us making the moves toward Him.

    This is a good article, Nicole. It is honest. We need more of this.

  6. I just preached on this yesterday. Weird.

    I guess the first step for you, then, would be to extend grace to yourself, and re-realize (and re-re-realize, and so on) that you’re not going to be perfect, even in mentorship roles. Especially in mentorship roles. Neither is anyone else. That was the first step for me, anyway. It’s kind of liberating to be able to say, “You’re right. I screwed up. My b. And you know what? I might continue to screw up. And don’t be afraid to call me on it. Now let’s see if I can try and find a solution…” Continue to extend that grace that Christ so abundantly gives to us when we fall flat on our faces on a daily basis. Tons of love in this tough time my friend.

  7. Dear, dear Nicole!

    You are so NOT the world’s worst anything. You are, however, way up near the very top of several other “world’s greatest” lists. And, most importantly, you are on God’s “loved and adored” list, as well as ours. How many women would love to be on their in-laws’ “loved and adored” list, hmmm?

    One very important thing to remember about this particular incident is that discipleship is NOT a one-way relationship. I, too, have failed to contact people in various types of relationships, and I learned something important: my phone is not the only one with dialing capability. If I have been out of touch with someone, and that absence is important to him, he can call me just as well as I can call him. Why do we assume that the responsibility falls entirely upon us?

    Many more disciples left Jesus (Jn 6:66) than have left you. And He was okay with that. He actually created difficult circumstances in order to filter out some.

    The one who has left might, like the lost son, return to you in humility. That is our prayer. But if not, may she find another who will try to offer nearly the same mature wisdom you present. You are a wonderfully gifted member of the body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. Don’t forget it.

    We love you and are constantly proud of you, even when you’re not perfect, just like the rest of us.

  8. I know how this feels. Exactly how this feels… Thanks for this post.. I have been in this situation before. I kinda felt like everything was my fault when one of my disciple disappeared all of a sudden after I confronted her with something that she did. I took time to evaluate my own heart at that time and I realized that my reaction was normal and could be taken by others without feeling really bad. But I realized one thing though. As a discipler, we should really know how to walk with God each and every time. We can never control their reactions, but surely we can always have peace in God’s presence if we really handled it with a consciousness that God is also there and listening not just to what we say but what’s behind every word we speak. Honestly, I can’t one hundred percent say that I was 100% motivated by love. There must have been anger or frustration in my heart that made the atmosphere different. So that one is on me. I accept it and I have asked God for forgiveness and when I had the opportunity to talk to my disciple again, I asked her for forgiveness too because I knew what was in my heart that time. Even after that, she was still nowhere to be found and wouldn’t reply to my facebook private messages to her. That part was on her now. One of her collegues even told me that maybe its because of me that she’s not there anymore. That really hurt. Right now, I just know that I have done my part. I don’t have to play the self blame game anymore. God is a gracious God. Regardless of what people think, or what she thinks, God will reveal the truth in His time.

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